War Wounds

This is an article I wrote a few years ago after I had a revelation about how young boys think about their scars. It changed my perspective and I thought it might help someone else out there. I share it again because it’s worth repeating!

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Ever notice that boys love to show off their war wounds?  They eagerly relate the stories that came to create their scars–each in his turn trying to top the other’s story.

Women don’t do that.  In fact, we tend to hide our scars. We cover them up with clothing, makeup, and embarrassment.  It becomes a source of stress that someone will notice and that we will have to apologize for it.  We desperately look for ways to keep our wrinkles at bay, our skin from sagging and crinkling. We take sometimes drastic measures to keep thin, to lose weight, to cover up our widening hips.  In the dark of night when nobody is watching, we may cry over the person we once were and can no longer see in the mirror.  We look at our bodies and despair over what has happened to us.

Well, I’ve decided to take a page from the Men’s War Wound Playbook. I choose to look at my scars, premature aging, turkey waggle, and car accident deformities as a sign of strength that declares to the world that I lived through all of that and I’m still here to tell the tale.  Somehow that makes me bold instead of weak, an over-comer instead of a victim.

Most of my scars are in areas of my body only my husband and I will ever see, but one of them is now proudly displayed on my neck where all can see.  Some day the scar might fade and the lump may finally disappear completely, but for now, here it is in all its glory.

The first is a headshot of me with my laugh lines (well earned) and my turkey waggle and a hint of my parathyroid surgery war wounds.  The following two show more detail of the latter.  

The last one is a picture of my hand after the car accident and shows how my middle finger now likes to cozy up to my ring finger upon making a fist.  I sure am unique, right?  I’ll bet none of you have the same combination of war wounds.  

Won’t you join me?  What’s the story behind your scars?

The Case for Wrinkles

I wrote this about eight years ago. I had hoped it would go viral and there would be world acceptance of wrinkles by now. Maybe you’d be willing to pass it along and help the cause?


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At the end of a long, joyous, productive, meaningful life, what will people see when they look into your face? WRINKLES! And they won’t be thinking, “that face shows a joyous, productive, meaningful life” either. They’ll be thinking, “boy is that woman OLD!” Well, I’d like to change all that and I’m asking for your help.

It’s important to use your communication skills to change the world around you for the better. Why start with wrinkles? Well, I’ve written articles about grace in politics and faith before, but it struck me that I never did start at the beginning. In order to start a movement for world grace, I think it needs to begin with something more universal and easier to discuss. If you think of it in colloquial movie terms, this article is a prequel.

Every one of us, if we are blessed, will live to see the day when our face has an abundance of creases and lines. There will come a day when even the fresh-faced, four-year-old will be weathered. I’d like to start at the beginning with something we can probably all agree on and feel confident enough to pass along. I say wrinkles are desirable (dare I say fashionable) and I’m going to prove it.

The Case for Wrinkles

  1. Wrinkles are better than the alternative!
    Yes, given the alternative to growing old, wrinkles come in on top! Death is a very distant second! Once you realize how much worse you could have it, wrinkles don’t seem so bad.
  2. Wrinkles are soft.
    Yes, the more wrinkled your face is, the softer it gets. My 11 y/o son loves to touch my 48-year-old face and always comments, “It’s so soft!”
  3. Wrinkles are knowledge.
    The more wrinkles you have, the more knowledge you MUST have accumulated, even if by sheer luck! You just know things younger people don’t. You’ve lived through stuff.
  4. Wrinkles are earned.
    Wrinkles are not some honorary badge. They are earned! Not just anyone can have these babies! Laugh lines mean you must have laughed. A joyous life, even if fraught with struggles, is a prize, indeed. Wrinkles mean you’ve endured, you’ve persevered. Wrinkles mean you have really lived.
  5. Wrinkles show you have character.
    Wrinkles are character lines and mean you aren’t just any old body, you’re a character! Wrinkles make you cute, cuddly, adorable, wise, and worthy of honor!
  6. Wrinkles are wisdom!
    If you have acquired wrinkles, you MUST have also acquired some amount of wisdom. At the very least you remember history like it was yesterday. You remember what life was like before iPods and can regale the younger generation with quaint stories of what kids did before PlayStation 3. If you’ve really been paying attention or have garnered an education, you can teach people stuff-stuff they might really need to know!
  7. Wrinkles give you license to be silly again.
    Let’s face it. When you see a 4-year-old being silly, you think, “How cute!” When you see a 40-year-old being silly, you think, “What an idiot.” When you see a wrinkled old guy being silly, you think, “How cute!”
  8. Wrinkles are your ticket to free help.
    If a 29 y/o woman is having a hard time with her lawnmower, you’d rather not take a minute to help her get it started because, hey, you’re busy and her husband will get around to helping her…eventually. If you see an 80-year-old woman struggling to get her Christmas lights up, you’ll take three hours of your day to string them for her!
  9. Wrinkles mean you don’t get any more pimples!
    One of the great perks of getting wrinkles is that your face no longer breaks out! You don’t need to worry about those embarrassing blemishes due to oily skin when your face has dried up and turned raisin!
  10. Wrinkles allow you more time to have fun.
    Once you realize you’re no Farrah Fawcett (I know I’m dating myself) anymore, you can stop worrying about your looks and focus on the fun of life. Not having to worry about your makeup, the latest hairstyles, and your Jordache Jeans (now I’m REALLY dating myself) means you can wear what’s comfortable and have more time to enjoy life unimpeded by the bonds of high fashion!

You and I may not agree on politics, religion or even what to watch on TV, but I’ll bet we can forge one bond today and agree to declare to the rest of the world that wrinkles are desirable.

If you agree, forward this blog link to everyone you know, wrinkled and non-wrinkled. You don’t need to send it to 25 friends in the next five minutes, but if you do, you will have contributed 25 new giggles to the world! You will also have contributed to the beginning of the Wrinkle Movement.

Together we CAN rid the world of the stigma of wrinkles so that our children will grow up in a wrinkle friendly environment! Who’s with me?

What CAN you do? – Part 4

So we’ve talked this month about how to think less about what we can’t do and more about what we can. We’ve discussed ways to focus more of our energy on things we are already doing for others close to us. And we’ve gone through ways we can do little things to increase joy in those we come in contact with on a regular basis.

This week, I want to share a bit about what we can do for strangers. I hear you out there. You’re thinking, what can I do for strangers when I can’t even get out to go visiting or even grocery shopping? Well, it’s 2019 and there are lots of things we can do!

Remember a few weeks back when I gave you a list of ways and places you can find to do things for those you are closest to? Well, let’s look at that list again because most of it can help us bring joy and uplift those we don’t know:

Numbers one and two were job and kids. Well, those are probably where you come in contact with folks you know. Here is the rest of the list and how you can impact those you don’t.

3. Church?
Is there a ministry you might join at your church? Possibly something your unique set of talents and interests or experiences are suited for?

4. Online ministry?
Is there a ministry you’d like to start or get involved in that is online? Like me, you may have time though not be able to get out on a regular basis.

5. Online business?
Is there a business you might start online? An online business can not only give you something positive to strive for but bring in some kind of income.

6. Art?
Is there an inner artist inside you? You might start using those talents for others or use it as a business.

7. Writing?
Do you have an inner author you’d like to let out? Is there a novel in you? A children’s book? A testimony you’d like to share?

8. Blogging?
Would you like to blog about a topic near and dear to your heart?

And here are some others:
9. Social Media connections?
Some folks are on social media to connect with friends and family who don’t live close by. Others are on to share about a cause. Some of them are those who want to promote a particular ministry. If you have a desire to support others, you can do that online and make connections with people on Facebook groups, Twitter, or just from your own Facebook profile page.

10. Asking to pray with someone going through a hard time?
Have you ever run into people who you can just tell are having a hard time? Maybe at the grocery store or at your son’s baseball games? You can make a point to pray with them, help them, or just listen to them.

11. Reaching out to those in need via text, social media, email?
I had a friend who moved away a while back. Not only couldn’t I travel to be with her, but she was busy and didn’t have time to talk on the phone. I made it a daily practice to send her a short inspirational text.

You may not be able to help someone financially, physically, or by being with them in person, but you can reach out through electronic means to be a light in their world.

If you have enjoyed or been blessed by this series, please consider sharing it on your social media or with friends in an email. You’ll be fulfilling one of the ways we’ve just discussed!

God Bless!

What CAN you do? – Part 3

This month, I’ve been sharing my four-step process for getting past the thoughts all chronic illness sufferers think: here’s all I CAN’T do. First, I shared about how to find ways to think less about what we can’t do and more about what we CAN do. Last week, I shared how you can ask yourself about what you’re doing now that you can put more of your energy toward. This week, I’m going to share how you can find ways to do for your immediate family and friends.

Just as everyone has a unique set of talents given them by God, each also has a unique set of limitations given to them by chronic illness. Despite whatever limitations you may have, there are things you CAN do for your family and friends that you may not have thought about before. Now, some of these things you may not think are important, but I guarantee you they are to your family and friends! Here’s what you CAN do for family and friends:

1.Being an example:
I’ve read that it isn’t what happens to us that matters, it’s how we react. I’ve written about this principle in many of my Art of Eloquence communication materials because it isn’t the fact that you mess up a speech. It’s how you handle that mistake that people react to. People forgive even a colossal mistake you make toward them if you handle it by apologizing and seeking to make it right. This principle is even more powerful when you deal with trials by trying to find the good inside them.

You can be an example in your job, to your kids, at church, in your ministry, in your business, through your artwork and writing or blogging, to your social media connections, and with those, you come in contact with.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been told how I inspire others by my outlook on life despite having lived through so many medical, financial, and other trials.

2.Pointing out the joys
I have made it one of my life’s missions to point out the fun, humor, and joy in the things I see or experience. Being uplifting isn’t only or always just showing the beauty of God’s world, but can be just giving the world that is full of tragedy and trials just a glimmer of beauty, or a little giggle.

It’s a gift God has given me to see the humor in things. So, I create memes and post them on social media with the lighter side of the trials I go through and the funny side of almost anything that I see.

If you don’t have the inclination for humor, why not post pictures of the beauty that is in this world? You can share them from anywhere you are and bring a little joy into this fallen world that is filled with darkness and tragedy.

I can’t tell you how much a little giggle can mean to someone who has had a tough day…or someone who has had a death in the family. You wouldn’t think so, but it’s true. I ran a very large Facebook fan page. All I did was post purple memes and pictures every day. That’s all.! I have received private messages from fans telling me how my little purple memes helped them through their husband’s death. Their husband’s DEATH! My little purple pictures in the midst of their grief meant that much to them. Facebook recently took away my admin status about a month ago. I haven’t been able to post since. However, that page has grown by over 200 fans and I continue to get messages from fans who miss my posts!

3.Sharing your artistic talents: writing, artwork
If the Lord has given you a talent for writing or painting or drawing or calligraphy, this can bring so much joy to others! Post your work on social media. Start a group or fan page for it! Invite others over to see your craft work. Put it on YouTube.

I had a friend here in Indiana. I met her a short time before she moved away, but she had an incredible talent for music. She wrote piano instrumental music for the glory of God and it was gorgeous! She shared it once as worship before church service and she invited me over to hear her play several of her works. I was going through a tough time then, but for a few hours, I was inspired!

You have been blessed with some talent. Explore it. Share it. Both you and those you share it with will be blessed!

Next week, I’ll be back with the final post in this series.

What CAN you do? – Part 2

Last week I shared with you my first step in focusing on what you can do rather than what you can’t. The next step in the process of asking yourself what CAN you do is to ask yourself what you are already doing that you could put more of your energy into.

There are a few reasons this helps:
1. It gives you a purpose and that gives your life meaning.
2. It allows you to put your focus more on positive things.
3. The less free time you give yourself, the less time you will find your mind wandering to negative thoughts.
4. The less free time you have, the less time you have to dwell on what you can’t do because you’re doing great things!
5. The more you do for others, the more joy you will feel and the more you will know you are not useless!

In order to put more of your focus or time into things that give your life more meaning, you may need to focus less on things that don’t. Do you have a task you’ve taken on that you don’t need to be doing? Did you start a side business, but have no energy for it? Have you been doing something you thought you needed to continue, but the Lord has been asking you to give it up? Now would be the time to review and make changes in order to do more of what already brings you joy and gives joy to others.

To that end, what are you doing now that you could put more of your energy and focus into?
1. Job?
2. Kids?
3. Church?
4. Online ministry?
5. Online business?
6. Art?
7. Writing?
8. Blogging?

Well, that’s it for step two. I’ll be back next week with step three!

What CAN You Do? – Part 1

Chronic illness takes so much away from you that your thoughts often dwell on what you can’t do anymore. I can’t work. I can’t go out today. I can’t clean the house. I can’t do for my kids. I can’t help the church. I can’t help a friend. I can’t feel useful. And that right there is the cause of sadness and even deep depression.

But it doesn’t have to be. I’ve felt that way myself, but I have developed some habits that have helped me to get out of that funk and feel useful which, in turn, increases the joy I feel day to day.

It all started with a question I asked myself. “What CAN you do?” You see, I had many times when I felt like I was too tired to DO anything. Too brain fogged to THINK of anything. Too overwhelmed to make any sense. And yet, I always found SOMEthing I could do that would make a difference, that would be positive, that would be of value to…someone, anyone.

There are four parts to this process and I’m going to cover one part per week this month. The first step is to think less about what you can’t do and more about what you CAN do. It sounds simple. It’s not. It is the hardest step in the process, but it’s worth every effort.

So many devotionals I’ve read and so many of the PMA books out there are like the Just Say No campaign. Just think positive. Just be thankful. People have it so much worse than you! Well, it may be true, but it isn’t helpful, especially when you’re in the throws of despair or you are still grieving the loss of your old life.

But there are several things that can help you to begin to think this way and here they are in no particular order. Do the ones that speak to you. Use the ones that you can and see if you can start others later as you begin to heal from the overwhelm.

  1. Start a gratitude journal
    You don’t have to publicize it. Just write down one thing each day that you are grateful for. One new item each day. Then, after a week, look back on it. After a month, after a year… The more you see in your journal, the more you realize just how blessed you are even if you do have big things to deal with.
  2. Find the humor in life’s other struggles
    I can’t tell you how many times I have had little weird things happen. These little weird things didn’t always seem really little to me at the time. But later on, I found them to be much smaller than the illnesses and conditions I face and so I now see them as not as important. I see them more as inconveniences that are kind of funny…sometimes at the time!
  3. Compare the size of the other struggles to your big ones
    If you can’t find the humor in the other struggles that come along or you still get upset when things are compounded by all life’s glitches, you can try comparing the big struggles to the little short-lived ones.

    You’re already tired and in pain, but you go to the kitchen to make dinner for your family and the oven knob falls off in your hand. You pick up the pot and the handle falls off. About this time, you’re probably thinking that someone is out to get you.

    You’re frustrated and angry, but what if you could stop and think about the size of these issues as compared with your bigger struggles, the size of your love for your family, and the blessings you have despite the problems you are in? What if you looked around and asked yourself, “Where’s Alan Fundt? Am I on Candid Camera? What if you saw the humor in it. What if you skipped to the part where you put the handles back on and that problem was solved?
  4. Think about how the Lord might be leading you to better things
    My husband was fired several years ago from a job we moved to Indiana for. We had to move out of the house we were going to buy. Because of that move, my new doctor wanted to check to see if a huge fibroid I had in my uterus was still there–even though in all likelihood, it was gone due to my age. The fibroid was gone, but a cyst on my ovary was found instead. Surgery to remove that cyst and the fallopian tube attached to it revealed a rare and aggressive cancer in its infancy.

    If it were not for that series of events starting with that job loss, I’d be dead now. Sometimes bad things lead to good things. Sometimes we are privileged to know about them. Sometimes we are not. So, if you don’t see it, just think about how it MIGHT have benefited you. It sure did for me!

Remember, this is the step that takes the most time, but the good news is that you can do them simultaneously with the other steps…which I will discuss in the coming weeks.

Autism Bonuses

I had intended to make this a four-part series, but after completing the last part of what my son calls Shock and Awe-tism, I wanted to include some links for more Autism information and some inspiration as well as some ideas and food for thought.

Sometimes a pet can help calm…

Here’s an article about a book advocating the benefits of not keeping your ASD child in their comfort zone. We did this a bit with our son and it seemed to work for him. He would scream and hold his ears when in situations that were loud. Loud to him was a restaurant or church service. Sometimes we had to be in a loud environment and we tried to calm him by giving him a handheld electronic game to help him focus and that seemed to tune out the outside noise.

Once when he was very young, we went to a Fourth of July Fireworks show. On the way home he said, “It changed my brain.”

Here’s what the article says about this book: “A new autism book, The Loving Push, encourages parents to gently and lovingly nudge children on the spectrum to perform activities outside their comfort zone. This book is written by Dr. Temple Grandin, a leading spokesperson on autism, as well as psychologist Debra Moore.

1st Woman With Autism Passes Bar!

Dear Mom of High Functioning Autism article rang true for me with my son. I found many support groups that I didn’t feel helped me or my son because I didn’t quite fit in. I felt bad even saying my son has Autism because I didn’t have to deal with many of the things they did. However, I did need help with my son and he certainly did as well. Thought it might help some of you out there.

Here is a video about an organization called SPARKS that is looking at a genetic reason for Autism.

Here are a couple of videos that show how AWESOME people with Autism can be and it is part of the reason my son calls my series Shock and Awe-tism:

Guess who didn’t know he had Autism til he was 70?!

Image may contain: 1 person, text
https://www.facebook.com/AutismTalk/photos/a.413450702052380/2213450025385763/?type=3&theater

Links:
Autism Speaks
Autism Land on Facebook
The Autism Site Blog

Please do me a favor and share this post on your social media platforms and with anyone you know how might be struggling to understand their child. Or with anyone who has an Autistic child and is in need of some inspiration. God bless all the unique individuals out there!

Real Autism Awareness: What to Look For

So, if you’re just joining me in this last of my four-part series on Autism, you can go back and read why I’m writing this, my experience, and what Autism is not. This post talks about what things you can look for to find if your child might be on the Autism spectrum.

There are two core symptoms that usually begin in early childhood (although they may not be recognized as such until later on). These issues persist as the child grow to some degree and interfere with daily life. The first is some social communication challenges and the second is repetitive behaviors. As I’ve said before in previous posts, these may vary in severity and differ from person to person.

Since this is a complex issue, it’s best to have your child formally assessed by a professional. This article is for informational purposes only. I’m no expert, but I feel strongly that if I had access to this information when my son was young, I could have helped him feel less frustrated and he wouldn’t have blamed himself for so long.

Here are some of the things you may notice in your child that could lead you to suspect he or she might be on the Autism Spectrum. I’m going to break them down into categories to make it easier to visualize. Remember that each person will be different. Not all Autistic people have all or even most of them. This is just a list I put together after having done some research in order to make it easier for you to determine if you should take your child to a professional to get more individual information.

Social and Communication Challenges:
Difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication including:
* Gestures
* Spoken language (1/3 of Autistic people are nonverbal)
* Eye contact
* Facial expressions
* Lack of empathy
* Expressions not meant to be taken literally
* Recognizing emotions or intentions of others
* Expressing emotions
* Feeling overwhelmed in social situations
* Taking turns in conversation
* Gauging personal space
* Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings
* Preferring to play alone or difficulty playing with others
* Not taking part in “Make Believe” activities
* Not recognizing sarcasm or joking

Repetitive Behaviors:
* Rocking, flapping, spinning, running or walking back and forth
* Repetitively spinning wheels, shaking sticks, flipping levers
* Staring at lights or spinning objects
* Ritualistic lining up of objects or touching them in a particular order
* Narrow or extreme interest in specific topics
* Resistance to change or rigid adherence to routines
* Self-abusive looking behaviors like hitting themselves with objects

Other Behaviors and Behavior Patterns:
* Loss of previously acquired speech
* Preference for solitude
* Delayed language development
* Persistently repeating words or phrases
* Unusual intense reactions to sounds, smells, textures
* Abnormal body posture or walking on toes
* Flat tone of voice or monotonous speech
* Difficulty learning or learning disability
* Sleep disturbances (my son had waking nightmares)
* Avoiding or disliking physical contact
* Fussy eating
* Lack of coordination or clumsiness
* Aggressiveness
* Short attention span

Other Profiles:
If you haven’t read my son’s story in the first of this series, you can go back and read part one. However, my son is only one of many ways in which a person can be Autistic. So, I’ve found a page on Autism Speaks that gives various profiles of different Autistic kids that you can read through to get more of an idea of how Autism can manifest itself.

I hope this has helped you to get a bit of information on what Autism may look like. I pray you find your answers. Please comment below and let me know your situation. I’d love to hear from you.

Do me a big favor and please forward this blog post to all your social media accounts. I’d love some help getting the word out!

Real Autism Awareness: What Autism Is NOT!

So, I’ve talked about what started me on this series and my experiences with my son. Now it’s time to talk about what Autism is NOT. The reason I bring this up is, as I said in my first article in this blog series, there are as many ways to be Autistic as there are Autistic people.

Aside from a profound lack of information on Autism in the public eye, there is a stereotype emblazoned in our minds by Hollywood as portrayed in television shows and on the big screen. If your kiddo doesn’t act like that, then Autism is quickly dismissed. That’s what I did. For 17 years, it never occurred to me that my son could be dealing with Autism. NEVER. In fact, we have family members who still don’t believe it because Chris doesn’t act like the typical Hollywood stereotype.

The Hollywood Autism Stereotype
Hollywood’s idea of Autism has always been limited to a five-year-old child who never looks anyone in the eye, doesn’t like to be touched, has no sense of humor, rocks back and forth, screams in public, and has no friends. This is NOT the only face of Autism.

Autism is a spectrum of many issues that come in varying degrees of severity. Some have a few of them. Others have more than a few. Some have the very same issues but on a completely different level of severity. I liken it to Fibro. Fibro is a collection of symptoms, but not everyone has the same ones nor do each have it to the same degree. My pain isn’t as high as some and fatigue is my most severe issue. Others have less fatigue but more pain and then there are all the other symptoms.

My son looks people in the eyes when he speaks, has a fabulous sense of humor, loves hugs, and is quite popular with serious minded people. On the other hand, he paces back and forth when he’s trying to focus or feel comfortable, has a hard time concentrating and focusing at times. As a child, he used to scream in public when he had too much stimuli, but he had been able to overcome most of that by the time he was a preteen.

Chris doesn’t give off Hollywood’s Autism stereotype. He, as most Autistic people do, has a unique set of skills and issues to work through. But there is one more major stereotype I’d like to address. Part of this has roots in the Hollywood image of Autism and part of it is a bit different.

Intelligence Autism Stereotype:
One of the reasons people don’t believe my son is on the spectrum is because he’s incredibly smart. I’ve never had his intelligence tested, but I’m fairly certain that a kid who taught himself to read at the age of three with the help of a computer program designed for third graders and was able, at nine, to beat adults at chess, is pretty smart.

The notion that Autistic people have to be unintelligent is plain wrong. The Autism spectrum includes an array of people all over the intelligence map. Some, like my son, are brilliant. Until recently when the Autism diagnosis was updated to include other forms of Autism, it would have been called Asperger’s. Because of the stereotypes and for clarity’s sake, I use the term Asperger’s or “On the Spectrum” when describing my son.

Now that you know what Autism isn’t…or rather what isn’t the ONLY description of Autism, I’ll be back next week to give you some things to look for that may indicate what Autism is in your child.

Please do me a favor and forward this blog post to all your social media accounts. I’d love some help getting the word out! I’m sure there are other moms out there desperately searching for answers as I was a few years ago.

Real Autism Awareness: My Experience

Last week, I shared why I felt it was important for me to talk about the topic of Autism. This week, I’d like to give you a little background as to why this topic is near and dear to my heart. It’s personal for me because my son is on the spectrum and because I was entirely clueless for the first 17 years of his life!

My inability to understand him caused him great frustration and I wish I had known earlier so that I could have helped him. When I told him that this topic was on my heart to write about, I asked him if he would be okay with me sharing a bit of his story. Not only did he agree, but he was quite insistent that I share details so that other moms would have more information. With that in mind, I pray this series will help other moms who may not have any idea that their child is dealing with this.

So, a little background:

My son, Chris, was always an incredibly bright boy. He taught himself to read by using Jump Start Third Grade on the computer when he was only three years old. He spent six hours a day on that computer standing up so he could reach the keyboard. I had told him that this computer game was too advanced for him and that I didn’t have time right now to answer all his questions. So, he figured it all out on his own.

One day, I came downstairs to find he had the English subtitles on the TV. Thinking he had messed it up, I “fixed” it only to find them on again later. This went on for about two weeks until I finally asked him if he was doing this on purpose. He said he was learning to read. A while later, I came downstairs to find the Spanish subtitles on. I never again told him he couldn’t do something because it was too advanced!

Chris was always impressing adults. He played chess with adults when he was about 9. Once, at a party, I had a series of moms seek me out to tell me how articulate he was on a variety of topics. He had mastered just about every hand held and computer game he got his hands on.

On the flip side, there were things that he did or didn’t do that had us scratching our heads. While he was able to hyper focus on the details of a game, he was completely unaware of a big truck headed right for him in a parking lot. He could recite Sponge Bob episodes word for word having only heard them ONCE, but he couldn’t remember to bring down the book I asked him to get from his room. He’d go up to his room, immediately see something that he wondered about and I’d find him up there playing with the carpet fibers.

At two, Chris hated the feel of grass on his feet, loud noises, long pants, buttons on his shirts, and would only eat one food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…until that food was replaced by another food. At three or four, he stopped speaking for eight months resorting to grunts and pointing. I was just about to consult his doctor when I turned the corner and found him talking to himself and looking at me as if the jig was up! At five or six, I still had to sit beside him when he was eating to remind him to chew and swallow so he didn’t get distracted by the fly on the wall and choke when he took a breath to ask me how it could stick on the wall like that. At about 10 or 12, he had no idea how to answer certain questions that seemed to be fairly obvious.

“What grade are you in?” was met with a long blank stare. Later, we found out it was because he had no idea how that was meant. The grade he was supposed to be in if he were in public school? The grade assigned to most of his homeschool courses? The grade of his highest course? He was in higher math and science courses in junior high.

While his oral communication skills were quite advanced, he wrote essays as if he were a first grader. His handwriting was awful. This didn’t seem consistent with other things I knew about him so I had a thought. I asked him to type his essay over. Same topic. Same prompt. Night and day difference! Not only was his sentence structure and grammar better, but his thoughts flowed and it was quite a persuasive essay! More on this at a later time.

By the time Chris was 17, we realized he was having trouble in two of his courses. At the time, I didn’t understand why he didn’t just tell me he was having trouble. I didn’t understand how to help him. He could memorize a ton of information, but couldn’t figure out how to organize his notes or focus or be able to pick out which items where important to study and which parts of the book were less likely to be on the test. Also he couldn’t manage to focus if the test was much longer than an hour.

This time my internet search found much more than just Sensory Integration Dysfunction. I began to suspect that he might have Autism. That lead me on a race against time to try to find someone, anyone, who would take on a child of 17! Most therapists took kids from four to about 12. I must have called every number I found in a tri state area who might help until I finally found someone who got him to a doctor who finally diagnosed him with what most people would know as Asberger’s.

The reason it was a race against time was that I was told that in order to qualify for accommodations for the SATs and at a university, he had to be diagnosed by the time he was 18. It usually takes 1.5 years to get in to a doctor who could do the diagnosis, but we were rushed through and he ended up being diagnosed just a few days shy of his 18th birthday.

This is, of course, not his whole story. I just wanted to give you some background so you know where I’m coming from. Had I known that he was on the spectrum when he was young, he wouldn’t have spent all those years finding work-arounds for his focusing and organizational issues where he blamed himself and thought it was all his fault. If I had only known earlier, I could have saved him the frustration of trying to figure out what people meant by the seemingly easy questions he was asked instead of feeling alone, like nobody understood him.

I’ll share some more about him in later posts, but for now, I’d like to say how incredible my son is that he was able to figure out how to do so well for so long with such struggles only he knew about at the time.

If you have a child you are desperately trying to figure out, please stay tuned to this blog for more on Autism. And please forward this blog post to all your social media accounts. I’d love some help getting the word out!